Friday, June 18, 2010

Pictures from the Damien House

One of the things I learned before I even went to Ecuador was the details of leprosy. We had a speaker come talk to our class about leprosy and the many myths that so many of us believe about leprosy. I previously thought it was a highly contagious, horrible disease that made your body parts fall off. Nope. I was wrong.

Sadly, I am not the only one who is misinformed about leprosy. It is such a scary disease to most people that we were instructed not to call it leprosy in the countries where it is more common because of the general fear and misconceptions behind it. People are shunned if they have leprosy. Leprosy is also called Hansen's disease. The term of Hansen's disease does not instill fear in people so it allows for better treatment of the patients.

Hansen's disease (leprosy) is in fact, not very contagious at all. Only 5% of the entire human population are even susceptible to it. And if you are one of the 5%, you have to have long periods of time (months to years) of direct person-to-person contact. It can not be spread through skin or by touching someone who has Hansen's disease. It is spread similarly to a cold, through the droplets in the air.

Hansen's Disease is rare in developed countries such as the United States. But it is very common in third world areas of Asia, Africa, and South America. However, "leprosy could be eradicated worldwide, if that goal were to be set," according to Dr. Julie Gerberding, the director of the United States Center for Disease Control.

The kicker of this disease is that if it is diagnosed early, it requires a very simple treatment. The treatment??? One little pill. Most cases are not diagnosed early and are far into the disease before they get treatment. If this happens they require a longer regimen of treatment, 6 months to 2 years. But no matter how long they have had it, leprosy is completely curable. The side effects of the disease with those who have had it for a long time, unfortunately, are not curable.

Patients who have had Hansen's disease for a long time suffer from neuropathy, similar to diabetics, they lose feelings in the fingers, toes, feet, etc. Since this is mainly a third world disease, most of these people work with their hands and are on their feet every day. So what commonly happens is they hurt themselves while working and they can't feel it so they keep hurting themselves over and over again. Eventually, the human body starts to withdraw itself from recurrent injury, which is why many patients have hands and feet that look like they are missing fingers and toes.

This is obviously my description to Hansen's disease. If you want a more comprehensive and/or professional explanation, Which is the web site to the actual place we went in Ecuador, the Damien House. The Damien House is home to 60 Hansen patients and treats about 700 outpatients.

We brought a lot of medical supplies to Ecuador. This is a picture of the supplies we brought to the Damien House.

The men playing dominoes...

This is a picture of Sister Annie, a nun who has been volunteering here since the 1980s. She totally transformed the Hansen's disease wing of the hospital and created the Damien House. She has been there ever since. Pretty amazing woman!! The guy in the picture lives at the Damien house, it was his birthday! I don't remember how old he was, but he was over 80!

This picture has a funny story! This is a room where new patients stay and get treated. They turned off the guy's TV while we were there. Once we had left, Sister Annie tried to turn the TV back on, for a good couple minutes, before the cute old man informed her that she was trying to turn the TV back on with the air conditioning remote control!:)

Me and one of the men who live at the Damien House.

This is the birthday boy who brought out his hammocks that he makes by hand! Over 80-years-old and makes these phenomenal hammocks. $20 a piece! What a deal!

Ok, I look like an evil freak of nature in this picture. But it has a good story. We were in a room that had four old men in it, all who were various degrees of sick. One little old guy sang songs for us and than one of our translators sang a song. The lady in charge tells me to sing something. The only thing I can think of is 'Once There Was a Snow Man', which I sang along with all the movements. I looked and sounded ridiculous, but whatever, I was the only one of us who would sing something. And how could anyone say no to these super cute old people?

A picture of one of the men's rooms. There are three beds in this room.

The hallway of the women's area. The bedrooms are on each side.

A picture of the lady's bathroom.

Half of one of the lady's rooms. There are two beds in each of the girl's rooms.

Me and one of the ladies...

The Damien house appeared to be a happy place. Lots of cute people! Most of them made and sold things, like the guy's hammock or the women who made jewelry and sold it to us. Everyone seemed happy and well loved!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My favorite part pictures. I don't think any of them are that bad but I know some people can't handle even walking into a hospital. So just telling you in advance...

My favorite part of the trip was going to the hospital and seeing how the hospitals in Ecuador differ from the U.S. We went to a county hospital which is where the poor people go. From my understanding, there are really nice hospitals in Ecuador but you have to have money to go to them.

In Ecuador, the streets outside the hospitals are lined with pharmacies. If the patient needs medicine, even in the middle of surgery, it is the responsibility of the patient's family to go across the street and buy the medicine from one of the many pharmacies.

Most of the regular rooms in this hospital had 6 beds to a room with no privacy between beds. The patient to nurse ratio at this hospital was 2 nurses to 50 patients. The ratio gets worse at night becuase most of the nurses go home.

The patient's family stays with the patient in the hospital and really are their main caretakers. This is a picture of a family member sleeping under one of the children beds in the ER. Notice she is sleeping on cardboard. I guess this is common becuase the family is expected to stay with the patient. Also, patients stay in the ER at this hospital for days if needed. I tried to figure out why but never could figure it out.

I was very impressed with the things the hospital workers came up with. The nurses and doctors have the education but not the resources, so they came up with a lot of really good ideas. Like this one, where they blew up gloves to support a patient' heels to help prevent bed sores.

And this is one of their sharps containers.

Ok, so they clean their floors with diesel fuel. I have no idea why.

As we were touring the hospital, we saw a lot of different patients and families. One family chased us down the hall and asked us to come take a picture of their brother. We did. He had been hit by a car and was in a coma. They asked us for a wheelchair to use for him once he got out of the hospital. Sadly, he will never wake up. Not sure if the family understood that.

In the ER we saw different types of traumas. This, I thought, was the most interesting. This man had a snake bite that was being drained manually, meaning the doctor was pushing the venom out of the bite. It was extremely painful but the man did not have pain medication. Remember, they have to supply their own medication.

Ok, enough disgusting pictures. We were able to go into the pediatric rooms. Again, the families were the main caretakers. This little guy was so cute!!

I thought this was a humbling picture. The mom holding the baby's oxygen mask for the baby.

This guy was hilarious! He was blowing kisses at us as we walked by his room!

So naturally we went and got pictures with him!!

This little girl was hit by a car.

Her leg was broken and in traction. Again, they came up with their own way of supplying the weights to hold the traction on her leg. Note the partially filled milk jug.

These two little girls were in the ER with their families.

This one had been there for two days with appendicitis.

This one had just gotten there and was being treated for dengue fever. Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and has become a really big problem in Ecuador. Interestingly enough, when I went to the travel doctor for this trip, dengue fever was not even mentioned. We left on the trip worried about malaria but we came home from the trip worried about dengue fever.

I watched them put an IV in her hand. She didn't even flinch. Total tough girl!

We also had the opportunity to go into their neonatal intensive care unit. That was fascinating. The rest of the hospital was lacking in so many ways but not this area. It was almost like walking into my hospital. They pretty much had everything we do at home. Even this little guy who was basking away under his tanning (bilirubin) lights!:)

Ecuador in review

I went to Ecuador on a school nursing trip. There were 12 students, two teachers and the nurse who founded the non-profit group, Hands For Humanity. She organizes doctors and nurses that go to Ecuador to do surgeries on kids, specifically club foot, and helps bring kids to the U.S. for lifesaving surgeries. We had a lot of translators with us, some for only a few hours, others helped us for days and days! I can not speak highly enough about the people in Ecuador. Phenomenal.

Ecuador was amazing. I learned a lot, specifically about traveling with different people and in a group.

We stayed in three different hotels. One of which was a 5-star and was super nice. They gave us hot towels when we checked in!!

The food was fantastic! Truly, so good! The fish was so yummy and I could have eaten the rice every day! And the banana chips, which had a name that I can't remember, were surprisingly really good also! They eat them with some sort of mayo mix, also very good!

We went to the ocean....

And I even swam in a sulfur lake...only four of us had the guts to get in. I am proud to say I was one of them!

And, of course, I saw some of these...the famous Blue-footed Booby!!